Every year on December 5th, the United Nations celebrates International Volunteer Day. It’s viewed as a “unique chance for volunteers and organizations to celebrate their efforts, to share their values, and to promote their work.”
For pet lovers like us, volunteering always leads back to one thing: animal shelters! There are thousands of animal shelters across the U.S. which are home to more than 7,000,000 animals. These organizations work tirelessly to find permanent homes for animals in need…and they could use all the help the can get.
This International Volunteer Day, why not see how you can volunteer to help your local shelter? You don’t have to spend a dime to change an animal’s life. Here are five ways you can volunteer to make a difference at your local animal shelter.
1. Offer to Chauffeur
One of the most consistent and pressing needs of most animal shelters is transportation. If you have a car and some free time, why not ask your local shelter if they need someone to transport dogs and cats to foster homes, to the vet, or to shelters with more space? Most shelters will find it particularly useful if you can be “on call” to transport an animal on short notice, but ask the staff exactly how you can best help.
2. Take Photos
Are you particularly good at taking photos? It’s harder than you think to get a sharable photo of a squirmy animal, and it’s something a lot of shelters simply don’t have the time to do right. Why not spend a few hours a week snapping share-worthy pics the shelter can use to help pets get adopted? While you’re at it, train a few of the on-staff members on easy ways to take better pictures so they can handle new intakes when you’re not around.
3. Go Social
A lot of animal shelters don’t have anyone on staff with the time and/or know-how to manage social media! Are you a whiz at Facebook or Instagram? Do you have a large social following of your own? Talk to the shelter about ways you can help…maybe they need someone to regularly post photos of new adoptable pets or organize community events online. Perhaps you can volunteer to become an Admin for a pet-related community group on Facebook. At the very least, sharing the shelter’s latest updates with your own network helps spread the word about the cause!
4. Give Some Elbow Grease
Animals are messy. They can be a little destructive and rambunctious and most shelters simply don’t have the bandwidth to keep up with all the housekeeping and maintenance needs of their facilities. One of the most welcome ways you can help is to pick up a hammer, grab a rag, or break open that can of paint to help keep the actual building from falling into disrepair. Know how to fix a broken gate? Do it! Have a pressure washer in the garage? Bust it out!
5. Foster a Pet
Perhaps the most meaningful and tangible way you can help your local shelter is to volunteer to be a foster pet parent. What does fostering entail? It’s different at every shelter but it usually means taking in a pet (or more than one) when the shelter is at capacity until that pet can find a home. Fostering stints can last a day, a week, or a year, and they’re not to be taken lightly. If you’re looking to do the most good for pets in your local community, talk to your shelter about becoming a foster.